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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

1 Samuel 13

Verses 11-13


1 Samuel 13:11-13. And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash; therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the Lord; I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt-offering. And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly.

IN a reply which Elihu made to Job, it is confidently asked, “Is it fit to say to a king, Thou art wicked; and to princes, Ye are ungodly [Note: Job 34:18.]?” To this I answer, that doubtless respect and deference are due to rank; but not to such an extent as to compromise fidelity to God, and fidelity to the souls of men. If a Herod take his brother’s wife, a servant of God must tell him plainly, “It is not lawful for thee to have her.” And if a Saul violate openly, before all, an express command of God, a Samuel does well to interrogate him, “What hast thou done?” and to tell him with an authoritative tone, “Thou hast done foolishly.” Even a young minister, in cases of a more flagrant nature, must consider himself as God’s ambassador, and must “rebuke with all authority [Note: Titus 2:15.].”

That we may understand exactly wherein Saul’s conduct was exceptionable, I will shew,


How far it was good and commendable—

We by no means condemn it altogether; for, in part, we think it deserving of praise. He did well,


In that he dared not to encounter his adversaries till he had implored help from God—

[What more becoming than this? Surely we may all learn from it. For, in ourselves, we are unable to do any good thing: and to undertake any thing in our own strength is the certain prelude to defeat [Note: John 15:5.]. Nor is it in great and arduous matters alone that we should cry to God for help. Even “the thinking of a good thought” is beyond our power, without him [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:5.]. Under all circumstances, therefore, we must betake ourselves to God, that he may “help our infirmities [Note: Romans 8:26.];” and must “be strong only in the Lord, and in the power of his might [Note: Ephesians 6:10.].”]


In that he sought after God in the ordinances of God’s own appointment—

[“Burnt-offerings and peace-offerings” were appointed by God himself: the one to express our great need of mercy, through the sacrifice of Christ; and the other to express our gratitude for mercies received through him. Both of these were called for, and, in fact, are required of us also continually; because there can be no situation so favourable, but we need mercy; nor any situation so distressing, but we have abundant cause for thankfulness to Almighty God. The direction given us is, “In every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving to make our requests known to God [Note: Philippians 4:6.].” It is the due mixture of humiliation and gratitude that renders our addresses pleasing unto God. The very praises of all the heavenly hosts attest this to be the proper frame of a creature in the presence of his Creator [Note: Revelation 5:8-9; Revelation 7:11.]: and therefore, whilst we applaud the union of both the offerings in the instance before us, let us take care to imitate it in all our addresses at the throne of grace.]

The reproof, however, that was given him, requires me to point out,


In what respects it was foolish and blame-worthy—

At first sight, it seems as if he had usurped the priestly office: but I think that the enormity of such a crime could not fail to have been noticed in the reproof that was administered. I therefore forbear to allege that as any part of the accusation that is to be brought against him. His crime seems to have consisted principally in,


His unbelieving precipitancy, in curtailing the appointed time—

[It is evident, from the acknowledgment of Saul himself, that he had been commanded to wait seven days for Samuel, in order to receive direction from him. It is evident also, that though he had waited to the seventh day, he had not tarried to the close of it, but had, through impatience and unbelief, transgressed the divine command. His very apology shews this. His army were deserting him through fear; and the Philistines were just at hand: and he could not wait another hour, lest he should be overwhelmed before he had made supplication to his God. But why should he offer sacrifice, when that duty devolved not on him, but on Samuel alone? He might have prayed to God as fervently as he pleased, and have urged every soldier in his army to do the same. This would have been no offence: it would rather have been pleasing and acceptable to God. But he yielded to unbelief, instead of waiting patiently upon God in an assured expectation of his promised aid. Now, the direction given by God to all his people is, “He that believeth, shall not make haste [Note: Isaiah 28:16.].” The promise made to Abraham, relative to the deliverance of his posterity from Egypt, was not performed till the very last day of the four hundred and thirty years was arrived: and, in appearance, the accomplishment of it was hopeless. But had God forgotten it? Or did he suffer it to fail? No: “on that self-same day” that he had so long before designated, “he brought them out:” and we, in like manner, “however long the vision of our God may tarry, should wait for it, assured that it shall not tarry one instant beyond the appointed time [Note: Habakkuk 2:3.],” and that “not a jot or tittle of God’s word shall ever fail.”]


His unwarranted dependence on a merely ritual observance—

[He evidently thought that the performance of this ceremony was the only effectual way to secure for himself and his people a deliverance from their impending danger. But how absurd was this thought! Could it be supposed, that to disobey God’s commands was the right way to conciliate his favour? or that the performance of a ceremony would supersede the necessity for his powerful intervention? Might not a moment’s reflection have told him, that “to obey was better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams [Note: 1 Samuel 15:22.]?” Yet thus it is with multitudes amongst ourselves, who, if they do but attend upon the house of God, and go to the table of the Lord, and perform a few other external duties, imagine that all shall be well with them. We forget that God looks at the heart; and utterly despises every offering we can present unto him, if it be not accompanied with real integrity, both of heart and life. His express declaration is, that “the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, especially when he bringeth it with a wicked mind [Note: Proverbs 21:27.].” Let us then be aware of this. Let us fast and pray, and use all other means of obtaining help from God; but let us not expect the blessing from the means, but only from God in, and by, the means. Then shall we never be disappointed of our hope, but shall have daily increasing occasion to say, “Thanks be to God, who always causeth us to triumph in Christ!”]

learn, then, from hence,

Not to account any sin light—

[If any sin could be accounted light, certainly this of Saul might be so esteemed: for the enemy that pressed upon him was numerous as the sands upon the sea-shore, and well appointed in all respects; whilst his whole army consisted of only six hundred men, and not a single sword or spear amongst them all, except with himself and his son Jonathan. Under all these disadvantages, he had waited till the seventh day; and never, till he saw his men deserting him, and expected the enemy to come down instantly upon him, did he offer the sacrifice: and even then he did it with great reluctance. Yet for this sin he lost the kingdom to which God had called him. Now, we are apt to plead excuses just as he did; and to think that we are justified by a kind of necessity in our disobedience to God. But, whatsoever God has enjoined, that must we do, even though, for our obedience to him, we were to be cast the next hour into a fiery furnace, or a den of lions. I pray you, Brethren, settle this in your minds as an invariable principle, that nothing under heaven can justify us in violating a divine command.]


Wherein true wisdom consists—

[Whatever we may imagine, or whatever the world may say, disobedience to God will be found folly in the extreme; yes, and replete with danger, too, to our immortal souls. Wisdom and piety are one: and it is not without reason that, throughout all the writings of Solomon, they are identified. I would earnestly entreat you therefore, Brethren, not only to ask yourselves from day to day, “What have I done?” but to compare your doings with the commandments of God. Even your religious services I would wish to be brought to the same test, that you may see how far they accord with the divine command, and how far they differ from it. God will not judge as we judge: no; he will judge righteous judgments, and will reject with abhorrence many of the services on which we place a very undue reliance. To be accepted of him, your faith must be simple, and your obedience unreserved. Abraham’s conduct is the pattern which you must follow. “Go, Abraham, and offer up your son, your only son, Isaac.” Here was no disputing against the divine command, nor any doubt in executing it, though he had three whole days to ruminate upon it. No: he knew, that if Isaac should be reduced to ashes upon the altar, God could raise him up again; and would do it, rather than suffer his promise to fail. To the execution of God’s command he therefore set himself without delay. And do ye also act with like promptitude and zeal, and “be strong in faith, giving glory to God.” This will prove wisdom in the issue; and will prove as conducive to your own happiness, as to the honour of that God whom you love and serve.]

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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 13". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.